This is wicked awesome for any number of reasons:
1. After what appears to be a giant whiff on freshman (i.e. non-Nick Fairley) tackle prospects in Auburn’s last recruiting class, DT was the position of absolute highest need for the remaining slots in the class of ’10. Whitaker’s commitment gets Auburn up to two DTs in the class–both four-stars, thanks to Kenneth Carter‘s recent bump–and cements that even if Byran Jones opts for his hometown Razorbacks and the staff doesn’t have a 6-3, 285-pound rabbit to pull out if its collective hat, the class won’t be a disaster at this position. In fact, adding just one more prospect of any quality will make it pretty damn good, since …
2. Whitaker appears to be pretty damn good himself. The Warner Robins High (Ga.) product is an across-the-board four-star, with Rivals calling him the No. 5 DT and No. 54 player overall, Scout listing him as the No. 11 DT, and ESPN slotting him as the No. 17 DT. As far as consensus guru appreciation goes, Whitaker joins Michael Dyer, Trovon Reed, Cam Newton, Shon Coleman, LaDarius Owens, and Eric Mack as one of the top 7 or 8 prospects in Auburn’s class. (Oh, I forgot Craig Sanders, and … you know what? When I started writing that last sentence, I was expecting to end it with “top half-dozen prospects.” I’m not used to Auburn snagging this many high-end guys, I’m just not. The point: Whitaker ranks up there with all of them.)
It’s not like the gurus haven’t had a nice, hard look at Whitaker, either: he went to U.S. Army game and kicked rear-end all week, drawing multiple notices from the Rivals staffers and watching his stock–which had trailed fellow Georgia DTs Garrison Smith and Mike Thornton throughout the recruiting cycle–get a huge boost.
Don’t buy the gurus? Whitaker had offers from Georgia, Miami, Tennessee, Cal, North and South Carolina, Georgia Tech, etc. And, you know, speaking of the Dawgs …
3. Whitaker picked Auburn over a big late push from Georgia. As much gets made (and not without reason) about Auburn’s need to win the occasional in-state head-to-head battle for a recruit, it’s just about as important that when Chizik and Co. go into the state next door, they don’t have to settle for Georgia’s (and Alabama’s, and Florida’s) table scraps. The Tigers need a genuine foothold in the state, and Whitaker joins Antonio Goodwin as a second major steal away from the Dawgs. Maybe it’s not as immediately satisfying as Sanders’ flipping sides, but that Chizik and Co. are winning these battles in Georgia is every bit as positive a sign for the future.
4. I think “momentum” is maybe a little bit overrated in recruiting terms (hell, it’s overrated in sporting terms in general), but losing out of a guy who most Auburn observers have ticketed to the Plains for weeks would have been a discouraging way to start the final countdown to Signing Day. Instead, it’s full steam ahead.
“It was just where my heart was and where I felt comfortable,” said Whitaker, who made the announcement at a small news conference in his school’s media center on Monday. “Miami was actually second. Before the Miami visit it was 50-50 Auburn and Georgia. I don’t know, I’ve just been feeling Auburn for a while” …
“Yeah, me and a lot of the other [Auburn] guys have stayed in touch,” said Whitaker, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound interior defensive lineman. “I’m hearing we could end up No. 1 [in recruiting]. It feels good.”
It’ll take quite a sweep to get Auburn to No. 1, but Whitaker’s right about one thing: this does feel good.